Many couples struggle with reconciling large imbalances in their sex drives.
Often the man is stereotyped with having a much higher libido. But sometimes it can be the woman. And it’s also not a static thing where each person just stays “that way” forever. It’s common for the sexual energy to ebb and flow in a long-term relationship. There may be chapters along the way where one partner will have a higher sex drive, but then it switches to the other partner a few months later.
In short, experiencing misaligned sex drives is just a part of relationship.
It’s perfectly natural. Couples of all ages around the world go through this all the time. And it doesn’t mean your relationship isn’t working. Whether the underlying reasons are physiological or psychological, there are ways to work through this.
By the way, all those mixed emotions and hard feelings surrounding this for you are perfectly normal too. There are many different ways you can be affected by this. Maybe you feel resentful that your partner doesn’t initiate sex as often as you do. Or maybe you feel shame or embarrassment about being the higher libido partner and feeling regularly rejected by your partner. Perhaps the lower libido partner is the one who’s swamped with guilt about their comparatively low arousal levels, and worries they’re not enough to sustain their lover’s attraction.
Whichever way your mind is spinning the story, know that we all fall into these same traps. And there’s no reason to feel any shame about what you’re experiencing. It’s easy to play the comparison game and contrast yourself against your partner. You might worry that you’re putting unhealthy pressure on them, or that you’re some dysfunctional, sex-crazed maniac.
All you need to ease your mind and remedy the situation are some simple action steps. The tips below will help you manage your energy and bridge the gap between the two of you.
So, if you identify with being the partner in your relationship with the higher sex drive, and you’re struggling with how to manage it, here are seven things you can do to help the situation.
1. Talk to your partner about it and see how they feel
If you have been dwelling on sex drive trouble, and it’s causing you to feel an ongoing sense of stress, chances are very good that the problem hasn’t just been on your radar. Your partner may or may not have been able to put their finger on it yet, but they will feel that something is up, on some level.
The biggest killer in relationships is not talking about issues head on and connecting openly about them.
Check in with your partner about this. Share what’s been on your mind, and say that you notice you’re carrying a lot of energy around it, so it’s really important for you to communicate about.
Do they notice the gap? How does it make them feel? What, if anything, has been mounting for them on the issue? What do they want to do about it?
When you finally address the elephant in the room, it makes both of you feel less alone, and removes a huge amount of the mind-reading games that can happen whenever there is a sense of dissonance in the relationship. Some couples manage to go weeks, months, and even years with a cloud looming over them feeling on-edge, like they have to tip-toe around the other person because they feel like something is off, or not being addressed.
Once you do this, there is a real possibility that you could actually experience an immediate alleviation of pressure and either a) have the problem largely resolve itself, or b) realize you have other relationship issues that are the cause.
Our sex drives are not 100% biochemically regulated. Psychological intimacy also plays a massive role in how sexual we feel day to day.
If someone has been secretly withholding unresolved emotions or anxieties from their partner, it can cause them to unconsciously withhold their sexual energy. Because sharing their mind or their body are both acts of intimacy, which is exactly what they have been trying to avoid.
(Keep in mind that, if that is happening, it’s likely not intentional. Most of the time this happens below people’s conscious awareness. Because, deep down, we might not even know how we feel yet, or we don’t want to rock the boat and risk creating conflict.)
It can also be the case that blasé, hum-drum routine has suffocated the erotic spark in your sex life. If this is what you come to, check out my article on keeping that spark alive.
When you’re in the conversation, hold space for whatever each of you have to say. Let it all out. Let yourselves explore thoughts and feelings without having to “get it right”. To do that effectively, you’ll need the next point…
2. Don’t take it personally
We’re extra sensitive about our partner being sexually interested in us. So doing your best to take your ego out of the equation will work wonders.
Sure, this is much easier said than done when one (or both) of you feels even slightly sexually rejected by someone that you’re so close to. But it’s well worth mentioning, because this is at the heart of what puts so much pressure on your sex life (which only makes it worse) and creates the risk of eroding your relationship.
And remember that it’s our egos job to go undetected. It works quickly and subtly, below your conscious radar. But when your partner isn’t in the mood when you are, realize that you are making a choice to make it mean something about you. You can allow your thoughts to go into the downward spiral of ‘I knew it… I’m not attractive enough… they’re going to leave me… this means XYZ about me’… but remember that all of these thoughts (unless any of those things are explicitly stated out loud by your partner) are, more likely than not, total illusions.
Your partner’s lower libido doesn’t say anything about you, or their attraction to you. People just have different energetic set points. Our hormones and personalities are wildly different. Some people feel like they need to have 5-10+ orgasms a week, whereas others are fine with one a week. So, if a part of your mind does feel worried that they aren’t attracted to you, it’s crucial to discuss it directly.
Most likely, they will assure you that that isn’t the case. And if it IS the case, well, then you have something bigger to discuss. Because having somewhat comparable sex drives is an essential part of a healthy sex life (that is, if sex matters to both of you, which is another question to get honest about) so this is a vital conversation to have if there is a lack of attraction in the relationship.
It might get uncomfortable at times to share these insecurities and admit to your private feelings, but you’d be shocked by what’s really happening on the inside of other people, and how much can transform between you as a result of opening your mouths.
3. Engage in extended self-pleasure more often
It’s important to remember that your partner isn’t the one solely responsible for meeting your sexual needs. Sometimes (or more regularly) you need to take things into your own hands.
Self-pleasuring isn’t cheating, nor is it a failure of either person in the relationship. Sometimes it’s just practical action. But if you’re going to do it, it should have certain constraints.
If you’re going to self-pleasure as a means of alleviating sexual tension outside of direct intimacy with your partner, make openness and pleasure the true focus of it. Don’t try to hide it, or rush through it, or do it from a place of anger (if you do feel a bit of sexual rejection). If you’re always doing it in secret, it just becomes something that puts even more distance between the two of you.
The same goes for getting absorbed in mental fantasies while you’re self-pleasuring. For example, if you’re using porn as your only outlet, it’s likely you’ll only exacerbate the issue. Chronic porn use trains your body to rely on hyper-stimulation to feel deeply aroused and climax. Without breaks from porn, many people find that they begin to lose attraction for their partner, because they’ve subconsciously been developing dysfunctional expectations and attractions for a whole lot of things that are unnatural, staged, and/or fake. This doesn’t do your predicament any favours and only widens the connection gap in your relationship.
There’s nothing ultimately/inherently wrong with watching porn. It’s just that a lot of these negative impacts are out of your control when you have a compulsive relationship with it.
I’m using the term “self-pleasure” here instead of “masturbation” because it carries a whole different energy. Basically, what I’m encouraging you to do here is focus on practicing more mindful masturbation.
No screens. No media. No pictures. Okay, one exception: Unless it’s featuring your partner. Still, try this practice on with total mindfulness.
Turn this into a proper session. Schedule it as an event in your week. Look forward to it. Mentally prepare for it. Don’t just sneak it in on your way between the couch and the bathroom. Give it some effort and care. Set an intimate stage, as if you were going to be seducing yourself. Prepare some lube, music, and whatever else is sexy to you.
When you begin, don’t follow the common habit of gunning it and sprinting straight to climax. Breathe and arrive there. Use your hands to stroke the skin from the sides of your neck down to your thighs, slowly working your way to your genitals. Once you’re there, take it slow, like you would with anyone else’s body. Put intention into every touch. Try not to disappear into imaginary scenarios. Keep your mind on the physical and internal sensations in the moment.
Self-pleasuring this way leaves you feeling more grounded and intimately satisfied than compared to how most people feel when they finish (scattered and flat.) It’s the sexual equivalent of eating natural, whole food instead of fast food – you end up having less cravings and feel hungry less often.
4. In some sessions, ask your partner if they would be willing to help
While you’re taking things into your own hands, not all your self-pleasuring has to be (or should be) done alone. Inviting your partner in can be a great way to build your connection, spice up the relationship, and maybe even spark their sex drive a little bit.
But it’s important to not enter into this ask with any expectations. It should come form a pure, open place of figuring out how they can be a part of your sexual experience. How could they support you or participate while you self-pleasure? And how could they do so in a way that doesn’t make them feel pressured to be in the mood for their own genitals to be aroused, or have to perform?
Put the conversation out there. If you have some clear ideas of what would feel good for you, present them. If not, ask what they would feel good for them. Maybe while you self-pleasure, they would be open to kissing you, or stroking sensitive areas like your neck, breasts, chest, thighs, butt, genitals, or whatever the spot is. Maybe you just want them to breathe on your neck, or lie against you so that you can use your free hand to caress the parts of their body that you both find arousing and that they are happy to have you touch.
The trap many people fall into in longer term relationships is forgetting about all the subtleties of sex, like foreplay, or shared self-pleasure. They begin to lose their erotic creativity and openness. The thought of penetration becomes the routine synonym in their minds for “sex”, and all the fun little tension-building detours are seldom taken.
Keep your mind open and be flexible. You could stumble on a great solution that looked nothing like what you originally had in mind.
5. Let your partner know what they can do to help you feel loved and supported
For example, on nights where I’m feeling sexual and my partner isn’t, she knows that if she simply rests her hand on my testicles as we’re going to sleep, I feel connected to her and I feel like she still sees me as a lover, and any of my egoic thoughts about feeling rejected are totally quelled by this act. I don’t even need to self-pleasure and/or be sexual in any way. This simple gesture does more than enough for me.
Even if you aren’t doing anything sexual, you can still find ways to connect that nourish you and scratch your itch for intimacy and physical touch.
To generate solutions, you will first really have to consider what it is you ultimately want from your partner. And I mean the stuff that you might not be aware of at this very moment. Take a deeper look. What’s behind your strong and frequent desire for sex? Sometimes it’s just natural. But other times we’re covertly looking for something, like acknowledgement, attention, approval, acceptance, and other “A” words…
I was able to create that solution I mentioned because I understood some of the deeper things I get out of sex. Then I realized that sex was far from the only way to meet that need. It was just the only way I had learned up to that point.
As it turns out, something as simple as a non-sexual touch on my genitals serves that need and allows me to feel connected to my partner on nights when she isn’t in the mood.
Once you understand these deeper motives, you might even be able to brainstorm some completely non-physical things that your partner could do to help satisfy your needs. A common one would be giving you specific words of affirmation. They could be pure expressions about how much they love and appreciate you. Or it could be something sexier that lets you know they still want you.
6. Meet your greater needs for intimacy
Sometimes what is driving an excessive need (not that you have an “excessive” need, per se) for sexual connection is feeling a lack of intimacy in general in your life. I’m talking about inside AND outside your relationship.
Sex is a common way we subconsciously try to get our core needs for intimacy met, but it might not even be the best way.
It’s easy to have the kind of shallow sex that temporarily scratches the intimacy itch, but it can be lacking in any real qualities of vulnerability, presence, or openness that make it a truly intimate act. Sometimes having a radically honest conversation with a friend or family member can create way more intimacy than having sex with someone can. For example, I am in a weekly men’s group, and that is a major contributor to my overall intimacy needs getting met.
Intimacy is something we get a lot of from our relationship partner, but we can (and should) also be getting it from friends and family. Essentially, intimacy is the mutual feeling of being safe, fully self-expressed, relaxed, seen, and understood.
More often than we realize, we’re the ones who are creating a lack of intimacy in our lives because of how we’re living. We might not be sharing ourselves openly, or often enough, with those close to us. We might allow the modern lifestyle to keep us more isolated than is healthy for us. Maybe we haven’t yet established the kinds of friendships where we can show up in this way, or maybe we’re familiar with or skilled in using the social tools to do.
If you think a lack of intimacy might be the case for you, invest more in the day-to-day intimacy in your relationship (with your partner AND with your closest confidants). It’s going to require some different behaviour and deeper conversations, so it might get a little uncomfortable, but it will go a very long way in resolving this whole issue for you.
Investing more in intimacy means taking more time for one-on-one, tech-free conversations, where you’re really getting into how you feel (good and bad), what you’re looking forward to, and what you’re struggling with. When you listen to other people talk about their lives, and support them through their wins and losses, you’ll get even more out of it.
In general, get out of your head and report your mind when you’re with those you trust. Address the uncomfortable things you might have been leaving on the back-burner, and say the unsaid. This could be sharing love, overdue gratitude, unspoken frustration, or insecurities and mental stories you experience around them.
When you clear out the internal cobwebs, and feel deeply connected with and seen by loved ones, you’ll feel more fulfilled and notice a softening in your cravings for sexual intimacy.
7. Don’t rule out health issues
If one of you has a seriously low libido, don’t rule out the possibility that physical and chemical issues (like hormone imbalances) are at play. With the average diet and lifestyle of today, hormone issues are more prevalent than they ever have been.
Besides thyroid dysfunction, one of the main causes of hormone imbalance is simply stress. Chronic stress wreaks havoc on your body’s hormone production and creates hyper-tension, both of which greatly diminish your sex drive.
If your libido is low – have you been chronically burning the candle at both ends, drinking too much coffee, eating processed foods, and not sleeping enough? And if you are concerned about your partner, check in to see how they’re doing, and how you might be able to support them in relieving their stress levels and exercising healthier habits.
If one of you suspects something deeper is causing libido issues, entertain the idea that getting some blood work done to check hormone levels could be a smart course of action. This will help pinpoint what specific supplements and dietary changes you’ll need to fix the problem.
If you pack it all down, you have two key action steps here. One is taking a good, hard look at creating intimacy in your life at large, and putting the effort into your other relationships. The second is to communicate fully and honestly with your partner.
Because sex is so seldom talked about in our culture, it tends to rarely get addressed head-on between couples, even in the privacy of their own bedrooms. And when we can’t even have a simple conversation about it, we shut the doors to so much possibility. We’re unable to learn more about ourselves. We aren’t able to bring more freedom and creativity into meeting our sexual needs.
In order to have the best possible sex life, the answer is always to “adult” and talk this stuff over. Stay flexible and open, and more than just how your sexual needs can be met. Hold space for the possibility that an entirely different issue needs to be addressed. One way or another, you’ll be free of the struggle.
Dedicated to your success,
Ps. If you enjoyed this article, you will also love checking out: